Going a walk with children or grandchildren is a wonderful way to spend time together. And everyone benefits from being outdoors. However, before you saunter off, read our advice guide to ensure all the family have fun.
Plan an adventure
Ask the younger members of your family if they’d like to go for a walk, and you may hear a few grunts and grumbles. But suggest they follow a treasure hunt or pretend to be explorers in the jungle, and they’ll be rushing for the door. Search for paw prints and listen out for bird song on a woodland trail, and look for quirky buildings or funny street names if you’re strolling around a city – everyone will soon discover walks can be fun.
Try one of these fun literary walks for children
Make the walk exciting
Children will find a walk along a straight route dull and boring. Paths that twist and turn, with stiles to climb over, tree stumps to jump on and stepping stones to cross, are much more fun. If your surroundings aren’t exciting, encourage young ones to sing a favourite song or make up new words to a familiar tune. Hold hands and skip along, or invent some funny walks. Above all, laugh!
Have a reward ready
It’s amazing how a reluctant child can be motivated to walk if they know an adventure playground, rock pool or ice-cream van awaits them at the end of the day. And a small secret stash of sweets can work wonders – telling a child they’ll get a fruit pastel once they reach the next field often keeps moaning at bay.
Walk at the child’s pace
Little legs tire easily so an all-day hike is not going to happen with children in tow. Keep walks short, the pace slow, and if your child chooses to loiter in one spot, stop and loiter together before persuading them to explore further ahead. Know their limits, though, and don’t push them. Walking near a bus route can be a good idea if you have any worries.
Find a four-legged friend
Dogs love going for walks – well, most of them do – so if you don’t have one of your own, borrow a pooch from a friend or neighbour. If children see a dog enjoying a walk, chances are they’ll think it’s great fun too. Keep it on a lead, though, and check to see if the walk, whether in the wood, park, beach or city centre, has any dog restrictions.
Find out how to safely introduce grandchildren to a dog
Do your homework
Before you set off, check the distance of the walk and level of difficulty – are there stiles to climb, will the path be muddy, is it suitable for a buggy? Find out if there is a car park or public transport near the beginning of the walk, too – you don’t want a long trek before you’re even started. Are there toilets anywhere on the route? Somewhere to have a drink or snack? You’ll enjoy the walk all the more if you know these answers.
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If it’s sunny, children should wear a hat. If it’s cold and wet, gloves, a scarf and waterproofs will keep little ones warm and dry. Whatever the weather, comfortable shoes are a must - sore feet or blisters will put an end to any walk. Carry extra layers and maybe leave more clothes in the car so children can change out of anything dirty or wet for the drive home.
Pack a rucksack
Make sure you bring all the essentials with you - plenty of water, especially if it’s a hot day, sun cream, a few snacks (or picnic if you’re planning to be out all day), wet wipes, a small first-aid kit and a mobile phone. It may also be worth packing a tennis ball if you think children will enjoy a game of catch somewhere along your route.
If walking in the countryside, make sure children respect other people and the natural environment. Stick to designated paths and don’t take shortcuts. Leaves gates and property as you find them. Take care not to damage plants and trees or move stones – they provide food and homes for wildlife. And always pick up your litter.
Help children remember the fun times they have had on walks. Let them take photos of special places they’ve been and exciting things they’ve seen. Show them a map of the walk and get them to point out their favourite spots. Collect leaves, shells or pine cones lying on the ground and have a go at some nature-inspired crafts. Who said walks were boring?!
Try making this pine cone fairy
Saga readers' advice
'Remember that young children have short legs and therefore pace lengths a great deal shorter than an adult. This makes a short walk for an adult a longer walk for a child of just three or four!' Ian, via Facebook
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